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May 11, 2017

Why Energy Efficient Affordable Housing is Important to Canada’s Indigenous Communities

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Indigenous communities throughout Canada are facing a housing crisis. Poorly constructed, inefficient homes with mold, pollution, inadequate services and other significant issues are commonplace, with homes often not meeting applicable building codes. Inadequate funding and inspections often lead to builders cutting corners and building substandard homes. This situation is exacerbated in remote communities where labour and transport costs are significantly higher than in urban settings. This is substantiated by a CMHC report from 2011 that found approximately one-half of all housing in Indigenous communities was neither adequate nor suitable for the residents. The situation has only deteriorated since then.

Indigenous housing crisis at a glance:

  •  In 2005 there was an estimated backlog of 80,000 units on-reserve.
  • In a March 2012 report, AANDC estimates that between “2010-2031 a need for 130,197 new units to accommodate household and family growth,
  • 11,855 replacement units to accommodate the deteriorated stock, and the major renovation of between 8,261 and 10,861 units
  • As of March 14, 2013, First Nations self-reported a total of 107,627 housing units on-reserve.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde reiterated this reality at the recent BC AFN Housing Forum in Victoria, “Our people live the reality of the housing and infrastructure deficit everyday. We do have the expertise and the experience to develop the right solutions and we invite partners in government, industry and the public to work with us.”

With respect to improved energy efficiency, it has long been an option — and a money-saver — for those who can afford the up-front costs. But, the close to 100,000 Indigenous households on-reserve are less likely than others to be able to afford or be empowered to make changes that in the long run would save both energy and money. So, ironically, they often pay the highest energy bills and are also often as very sensitive to expensive monthly utility bills.

Indigenous communities are asking for safe, affordable and energy efficient housing. In the case of the Yale First Nation, their community’s existing housing became uninhabitable, with basic structural issues plaguing many members’ homes. Housing that had barely met building codes when it was built 22 years prior was now structurally unsound. In winter months, the average household Hydro bill in the community was $350. That’s when Yale First Nation connected with us here at Metric Modular. We see Passive House building as a significant part of the solution to build high-quality and energy efficient homes that stand for generations. The leadership at the Yale First Nation share in this vision, which is why we’re currently building 10 two-bedroom units to Passive House standards for the Yale First Nation community.

More and more Indigenous communities are becoming interested in Passive House building design because of the reduction in energy costs and the reduced environmental impact. Buildings built to Passive House standards reduce energy costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions by a remarkable 80%. Factors such as building envelope, insulation, thermal bridge-free construction and airtightness are all considerations when trying to achieve this standard.

Once completed, Metric Modular’s multifamily projects with the Yale First Nation will become the most affordable and energy efficient homes in an Indigenous community in Canada. Metric Modular and the Yale First Nation expect the monthly utility bill for each unit to be no more than $45 a month. That represents a significant saving to families renting a Passive House and ultimately the community leadership, as their administration is no longer pressured to cover outstanding and outrageous utility bills. Yale First Nation’s leadership expects a suitable return on their investment as they work to attract more and more community members to come home, as they build comfortable and safe homes that their people actually want to live in.

If you have any questions about Metric Modular’s work on affordable housing solution for First Nations communities, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Colin Doylend

Director, Indigenous Relations





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